Zera and the Green Man: Chapter 25

After managing to scrape the tape off her mouth in the van, Tiffany screamed at full lung capacity until Drew and Bear raced outside. Now, ten hours later, she sat bolt upright, tightly wound as a spring, on one end of the shabby velvet sofa.

Theodore slouched at the other end. He wore his glasses, retrieved from the van that morning so he could memorize the scripted phone call to Void. The call had gone off without a hitch.

Tiffany’s confinement had not. She had terrorized everyone, all day long. She screamed, kicked, hurled herself at her captors, tried to bite, tried to head-butt Lily, and even managed to fling a glass ashtray (with her hands bound) at the window in the front room. The window didn’t break. The captors tried reasoning with her, threatening her, and even tying her to a chair for a few hours, but when they noticed she was crying, they untied her. Theodore watched Tiffany now as she fumed at the other end of the couch, a pink rectangle of chafed skin outlining her mouth. She was a mess, with tangled hair, smeared eye makeup, and wrinkled pink pajamas. Like Theodore’s, her wrists were still bound with the plastic zip-tie, but she had struggled so hard, chafing her wrists in the process, that Drew had to pad under them with foam rubber.

Tiffany angrily tossed her hair back from her face, but a strand stuck to a sticky spot by her mouth. She brought up her bound hands and ripped it free with a pinkie, all the while glaring at Theodore. “Imagine, your old girlfriend, kidnapping us both,” she snarled in a voice hoarse from screaming. “What do you really have to do with this, Theodore?”

Theodore said nothing. He’d spent hours trying to talk to Tiffany, to get her to see what he was certain about: while the Green Guerillas made a good show of being menacing, they wouldn’t hurt them. But Tiffany wouldn’t listen. She was determined that Theodore’s calmness betrayed some kind of guilt.

“You didn’t even object when they put the tape back on my mouth!”

“They told you repeatedly to stop screaming. I practically begged you to stop. Just what did you expect me to do?” Theodore held up his own bound hands for emphasis.

“Nothing. Like you’ve done all day,” Tiffany rasped, twisting her wrists in agitation. “We could get out of these things, if you wanted to. We could try to escape.”

He had tried to wriggle free for hours, and she knew it. Theodore didn’t bother responding.

Tiffany got up and walked to the kitchen door. She pressed her ear against it, eyes squinted. After a minute, she stalked over to the window, muttering, “Can’t hear a thing but that radio. All I’ve heard all day are snatches of conversation, something about ‘equipment,’ ‘live via satellite,’ something about a helicopter.” She faced Theodore. “What do you think it all means? And why are they letting us know their names? Their identities? They’ve got to be planning to kill us. And you’re just going to sit there.”

“They’re not going to kill us,” Theodore whispered. “I told you this before, when Drew took me to the bathroom after lunch, he said they weren’t going to hurt either of us. I believe him.”

“Go ahead, believe it, Theodore, whatever. They’ve put tape over my mouth, twice. We’re still tied up, have been all day.”

“They put tape over your mouth when you wouldn’t stop yelling.”

Tiffany peered outside, through a large gap between the boards covering a window. “It’s raining. Perfect. Even if by some miracle we do escape, we’ll have to deal with that.”

Theodore had heard a few things during the day too, and he sensed that while the Green Guerillas might not be dangerous, the mission they were undertaking surely was. He had been told in private he’d be going with them and to not, under any circumstances, tell Tiffany. In spite of what Drew said, he wondered if this would be his last day alive and discovered that he wasn’t too upset by the thought. The nightmare of the night before played in his head continuously — the tree, the accusations, the hatred, the jeers — those horrible plant voices. In comparison to the nightmare and what he’d seen in the laboratory, the kidnapping seemed almost tame.

Tiffany moved from the window into one of the chairs opposite Theodore. “There’s something I’m going to tell you now,” she said, “because even if we get out of this I don’t want anything more to do with you. Ever. It’s over.”

Theodore remained mute. He’d heard worse threats that day from her.

“I happen to know you’ve thought about that crazy woman. I’ve seen that photo album from your high school years that you keep hidden in the garage.” Seeing his surprise, she nodded. “Yes, Theodore, underneath those boxes of science books. I found it a long time ago.”

She searched my house? Figures.

Tiffany glared at Theodore, large cat-eyes narrowing. “The two of you at the science fair, at that stupid Christmas amusement park. It was disgusting, both of you all pimply and in love. I kept tabs on that box to see if you revisited those precious memories. And you did. Many times.”

When she got no reaction, her voice rose. “The way you acted yesterday cinched it. The way you treated me. Yeah, I’m a twit all right!”

Lily pounded on the kitchen wall to get their attention. “Keep it down in there!”

In defiance, Tiffany let out an angered scream. She then turned her attention back to Theodore. “I’m convinced you knew something was going on,” she said, growling out the words and refusing to let up. “You were just too weird yesterday, too completely changed. This kidnapping crap is all a ploy, just to make you look innocent.” She got up and started pacing, a pink and blonde tigress in bunny slippers.

“Right,” Theodore whispered, “all of this is a huge ploy, so I can be with my girlfriend from fifteen years ago. She’s married, Tiffany.”

Tiffany stopped. “Married? That’s funny.” She threw her head back and laughed. “Poor Theodore. You know, we had a chance. Langston and Crystal, all those wonderful people we met at Void, treating us like real family, bending over backwards to be our friends, to help us become successful. I had several conversations with Crystal, about what I might be able to do in L.A. for a career if we  . . .” She stopped in front of Theodore. For a moment her face softened and her eyes grew teary. Then, they blazed.

“A bunch of slimeball criminals! Eco-terrorists, that’s who you’re associated with! All this time, did you live some kind of double life? Oh, I wish I’d never met you!”

An explosion of white light filled the living room, followed instantaneously by a deafening boom.

Tiffany jumped and screamed. “What was that?” She cowered near Theodore.

Theodore hurried to the window. “Lightning. The tree’s split apart. It’s smoking!”

The kitchen door flew open. Lily, Drew, and Bear ran into the room.

“Did you see where it struck?” asked Drew.

“Yes, the oak.” Theodore stared out the window at the charred, smoking tree. As the smoke began to disappear in the pouring rain, he made out a figure standing inside the hollow trunk. It was unmistakable, he would recognize her anywhere. His hair stood up on his neck. He whirled toward his captors, his eyes glazed with fear. “Zera’s out there!”

Zera stood in the middle of the blackened tree, drenched from the pouring rain. The tree felt warm beneath her feet, not hot, although the smell of scorched oak and dissipating smoke was strong. She coughed once and when she closed her eyes she still saw the white outline of the tree. Her ears rang. She remembered drifting into the tree and then a blinding white light and BOOM. Must have been . . . her thinking was still scrambled . . . lightning?

She looked down at the soaked clothes hanging on her now full-sized body — cut-off jeans, a vintage AC/DC T-shirt, and her favorite red sneakers. She remembered the day’s flight, a journey that lasted no time and forever. And now everything changed again, literally in a flash.

Did the tree give up its life to somehow reconstruct me, in full size? Or am I really even here? She felt the rain on her face, tasted it when she licked her lips. She felt the heaviness of her clothes, her hair. She held out her hands, watched the rain pelt them. She smelled the rain’s damp sweetness mixed with the smoke. I feel real enough.

She spoke silently to the tree. Thank you.

It was then she saw them; two hooded men were running toward her, shouting.

By Jauerback (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons

By Jauerback (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons

To purchase your own copy of Zera and the Green Man, visit the official website now. Paperback and Kindle versions are now available.

Zera and the Green Man is a novel by Sandra Knauf, a local author and sustainability advocate living in Colorado Springs.

GreenwomanPublishing

Published via US Represented by consent of the publisher:
Published by Greenwoman Publishing, LLC
P. O. Box 6587, Colorado Springs, Colorado, 80934-6587, U.S.A.

First published in the United States of America
Copyright © Sandra Knauf, 2013
All rights reserved

ISBN: 978-0-9897056-0-8 (paperback)
ISBN: 978-0-9897056-1-5 (ebook)

Cover drawing by Paul Spielman.
Cover photography by CanStockPhoto 11569383
Cover and interior design by Zora Knauf.

PUBLISHER’S NOTE

This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or living-dead, is entirely coincidental.

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